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Thrills and Chills at Poetry and Toads

Seventh+grader+Catherine+Schenk+reads+a+poem+to+eerie+music+via+the+flute+played+by+fellow+seventh+grader+Ella+Pierman.
Seventh grader Catherine Schenk reads a poem to eerie music via the flute played by fellow seventh grader Ella Pierman.

Seventh grader Catherine Schenk reads a poem to eerie music via the flute played by fellow seventh grader Ella Pierman.

Alexa Cousin

Alexa Cousin

Seventh grader Catherine Schenk reads a poem to eerie music via the flute played by fellow seventh grader Ella Pierman.

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Poetry and Toes? When Benjamin’s middle school students were first introduced to the idea of attending an evening event in Mr. Ginnetty’s classroom that would celebrate poetry and short stories while enjoying a spooky atmosphere and yummy treats, many students thought the event would somehow involve their feet, but, people – c’mon! It’s Poetry and Toads – not “Toes” – and it is an English Department tradition which has returned after a four-year break.

Imagine this: Walking slowly and steadily into a terrifying room that could easily lead to your death. With the dreadful foreboding of shadowy, ghostly figures running across the ceiling, the 1,000 year-old butler (a mechanical prop, of course!) who had once lived but is now dead welcomes you into the dark expanse. Yes, the spooky elements in Mr. Ginnetty’s classroom did not disappoint. In the front of the room, a humongous grim reaper that towered over its victims steadily held his scythe, waiting to drop it promptly upon its terrified prey. It was in this setting on Thursday, October 27 that 40 or so Benjamin middle schoolers, some with their parents, came in costume to read published or original poems and short stories. Some even performed and sang.

The Benjamin Middle School first held its Poetry and Prose event in April of 2008. It was a 1960s coffee house theme where everyone dressed up like hippies and would snap their fingers after each performer. It was a crowd favorite and kept recurring each spring until 2012 when Poetry and Toads made its debut in October instead of April. Poetry and Prose then took a hiatus for a few years, but this year it was back and better than ever. “The importance of [this endeavor] is that it’s a community event at which we acknowledge the value and worth of literature, and we do it by having fun,” said Dean of Academics Dr. Tina James, who organized the festivities.

During the evening, many students and parents performed, whether it was by playing the violin or flute, singing songs, performing dramatizations like the Vinder Viper, or sharing Halloween literature like Macbeth.

“I really enjoyed the food and the decorations,” said seventh grader Liv Simon. Indeed, there were many treats to try, including chocolate chip, white chocolate chip, and oatmeal raisin cookies, as well as decadent and delicious brownies.

After the success of this event, the English Department hopes to have it again in the spring. “I would probably go again if they had it because it was really fun, and it is really fun to do things with my friends and family,” said seventh grader Sophia Smith. She, along with her father, Emeline Smith, and Caroline Yancey performed the Vinder Viper skit which was a crowd favorite. Throughout the whole story, the audience was lead to believe that the Vinder Viper was an evil entity who was going to kill one of the performers (in this case, played by Mr. Smith). The man kept getting phone call after phone call from the Vinder Viper, announcing that the Viper was getting closer and closer.

“I am the Vinder Viper, and I will be there in two days,” intoned Mr. Smith, who assumed the terrifying role. Finally, with the crowd on the edge of its seat because the Vinder Viper’s arrival at the man’s home was imminent, Mr. Smith uttered his final, dramatic line: “I am the Vinder Viper, and I came to Vipe your Vindows.”

There were also several awards given out to the students. Eighth grader Hudson Hale won best costume for his very convincing portrayal of a ghost (white sheet and all!), and fellow eighth graders Briley Crisafi and Justin Muhlbaier were each awarded best original work for their songs (the former a Lord-of-the-Rings-inspired ballad and the latter a rap). Their gifts? Glow sticks, of course – very appropriate for such a “dark” and mysterious event.

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Thrills and Chills at Poetry and Toads